Hello? Is this thing on?
Greetings friends! Tis I, Joy, returned from a year-long (and then some) absence. While I have missed the blog, I would not have taken a break and the risk of losing all of you if it were not necessary. Nancy has been busily working on Book 2 in the Sword of Redemption series (which I can promise you will be well worth the wait), while I have been taking time to settle back into normal after a serious family issue.
However, the time has come to shake the dust off the keyboard, so to speak, and begin again. :) I want to thank each and every one of you who have reached out in the interim to Nancy and I about the blog. It's an encouragement to know our hero girls are still out there- still looking (or patiently waiting...and waiting...) for the next orange-worthy read. And though the blog may have been silent, my hero heart has been with you any time I read. Therefore, take heart, ladies, for I have emerged from the void of time and space victorious!
I have been reading a lot of YA fiction lately, mostly because I am looking for something different, searching for that "spark" that wakes me up as a reader. Serena Chase is the author of one of the first YA books I picked up, and I am SO thankful that I did. Her world building skills, grasp of spiritual truth, and ability to weave beautiful, tear-inducing allegory into her books is beyond compare. I love this series so much I can hardly convey it to you.
My first Hero Feature on the flip side was a no brainer. It just had to be Serena Chase and her glorious hero, Julien de Gladiel.
Obviously, this particular book is a fantasy (if you couldn't guess by the cover). As such I tried to choose an excerpt that would give you not only a taste of the characters, but also of the style and structure of the story.
Excerpt from The Ryn:
"Princess Rynnaia," he said, "I am pleased to report that I've just completed my first act of valor in your honor."
I almost flinched at the way he addressed me, but his tone was formal to the point of being ridiculous, and the humor of it, accentuated by the light that danced in his eyes, would not allow me to dwell on the strangeness of my new name.
"Speak then, knight," I exaggerated my aunt's careful elocution. "I will hear your report."
"As you can see by peering into this cask of dishonor," Julien said, gesturing to a bucket that was filled with the dark blonde fluff and whiskery remains of that which had covered his face, "I have vanquished the beast that dared to impose on your hospitality."
"A beast, you say?" Our repartee released the deep tension I hadn't even felt building since leaving Mirthan Hall. Although Lily was quick to laugh when I teased, neither she nor Aunt Alaine ever instigated a jest. Now engaged in sport with Julien, I realized just how sorely I'd missed the affectionate words of play that had been a daily, if not hourly occurence in Veetri.
"Indeed," he nodded gravely. "A most foul beast."
I wasn't sure how to answer. Julien had been handsome even with the full beard. But without it he was utterly...
"He doesn't look like a bear so much now, does he Princess?" Lily's voice came from behind me, where she had moved to fluff the pillows. "And you're quite right. He is, indeed, even more handsome without the beard."
"Li-ly!" I gasped.
She'd never admitted to being able to see into my thoughts before. Had she been able to all along? And why had she never told me?
"I can't believe you never told me you could see my thoughts! So you sneak into my head without permission? Is that not bad enough? Must you comment on my thoughts as well?" With every sentence the volume of my voice increased. "If I'd wanted Julien to know I thought him handsome, I would have told him myself."
Excerpt used with permission. All rights reserved.
The words "knight" and "gallant" could almost be synonomous, and in Julien's case, they pretty much are. Julien embodies every noble concept that comes to mind when you think of what a knight should be. He is honorable, courageous, intelligent, handsome (yes, indeed), and good. He treats every lady he encounters with the courtesy and respect due them, and willingly risks his life repeatedly to keep the Princess safe. And speaking of, his connection to Rynnaia and subsequent treatment of her gives him a huge one-up here.
Wounded ScoreJulien's wounds may not be as deep or devastating as some of our other heroes, but he still has a place here. As a knight, Julien's heart is tied tightly to the king, and consequently, the kingdom. And both are hurting deeply. Mourning the loss of their queen, and suffering continuing loss at the hands of the Cobelds, the land is not a happy place.
Duty and honor are top priorities for Julien. While the excerpt I chose may lead you to believe he is softer than this score shows, I must say that there are moments when Julien is able to relax and be lighthearted. But when push comes to shove (and it does), Julien is a man of action, trained to take charge and make things happen. As is always the case, however, when it comes to the woman he loves, there is no shortage of tenderness to be found in our knight, presenting plenty of opportunities for the reader (namely, me) to become a puddle of mush.
Nothing to report here.
I really don't need to tell you Julien is a 5. I want to wax eloquent here for pages about why I love Julien so much, listing page numbers and moments of *SQUEE* that aren't even translatable. I will spare you the fangirling (this time) and limit myself to this: one of my favorite qualities in a hero is the embodiment of the love of Christ. Julien is a reflection of the Higher Love we all crave. He loves with sacrifice, patience, forgivness, grace, and oh-so-much tenderness. I'm melting all over again just thinking about it. :)
His journey, and that of Rynnaia, is one of transfomation. But through it all, there is love. In failure, in seperation, in pain. We are so loved! And that is a truth worth holding on to.
SERENA CHASE lives in Iowa with her husband, two teen daughters, and a big white dog named Albus. A frequent cntreibutor to USA Today's Happy ever After blog, Serena is an avid reader of young adult fiction and inspirational romance and has become a respected influencer within those communities. When not engaged in her varied roles within the publishing industry, Serena can be found watching action movies and dreaming about someday living in a cottage by the sea.
I want to invite you all to check out Serena's Pinterest boards- because they are EPIC and awesome.
Some of you may be wondering what happened to the giveaway portion of the feature. I'll be honest with you all- Nancy and I would love to give away a book/giftcard to every one of you, every time. Regrettably, our bank accounts aren't that flush, and in an effort to budget responsibly, we have decided to stop having regular giveaways.
"But Joy, you just featured this amazing hero and I simply MUST have his book!"
Well, my reader friend, how fortunate for you that in celebration of the release of The Sunken Realm (Book 4 in the Eyes of E'veria series), the first 3 titles (The Ryn, The Remedy, and The Seahorse Legacy) are on sale now for Kindle. Click HERE to secure yourself a copy today. Trust me, just buy the whole series. You won't be sorry.